British Culture and Society 1700 to the Present – Essays in Honour of Professor Emma Harris
From Hell via London to Paris or Łódź: Rewriting the “Jack the Ripper” Setting
Even though detective and crime stories offer intricate plots, both genres abide by a relatively set and easy pattern: “The basic narrative formula for murder or crime fiction is quite simple: someone is looking for someone or something” (Malmgren 152); or, “detective fiction … poses two questions for the readers: ‘Whodunit?’ and ‘Who is guilty?’” (Pyrhönen 43) Expanding Malmgren’s formula, the element which seems to follow pretty naturally is “somewhere”, i.e. the setting, and this paper will discuss neither the “whodunit” nor “whydonit”, but the “wheredunit” of the Jack the Ripper enigma as depicted in two twenty-first century revisions.
The Jack the Ripper murders were committed in London but the other “location” associated with them is Hell. The third purportedly Jack the Ripper message delivered on 16 October 1888, says it was sent “From Hell”, rather aptly describing the horrors it refers to: bloody murder and cannibalism. The “Hell” may also refer to the common way of describing the East End, which by that time had become “a symbol of decadence, immorality, criminality and poverty” (Haggard 198).1 Surprising as it might seem, there were also positive images of the area, published in The Times in the very midst of the autumn of terror: Canon Samuel Barnett, the vicar of St Jude’s Church on Commercial Street, claimed that “the greater part of Whitechapel is as orderly as any part of London, and the life of most of its inhabitants is more moral than that...
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